Webster & Jackson The Hard Way

Mutha's Trip Report (Pics Here):  Man, what an epic day out.  Rather than the standard trip report I'll merely go through my day:
  • Got up at 4:30am.  Made breakfast, consisting of a pot of Bob's Red Mill 10-Grain hot cereal made with water with a whole banana blended in it, two tablespoons of peanut butter and 1/4 cup of maple syrup (Goodrich Farm in Marshfield).
  • Sharpened crampons of mountaineering snowshoes.
  • Packed food, including two bagels (Bagel #1:  peanut butter & marmalade made by my brother Matt;  Bagel #1:  Nutella & marmalade).  To keep the stuff from leaking out of the hole in the bagel, used thin sliced of bagel to make a cover for the holes.  Works great.
  • Forecast called for clear skies, summits in the high teens/low 20's.
  • Drove in sleet/freezing rain.  tMail and I met at the AMC Lodge in Crawford Notch.  One of my Tubbs snowshoes busted (the binding) but I improvised a repair w/ some nylon straps.
  • We hit the trail at 9am.  The Webster-Jackson Trail was completely packed out to start.  There had probably been 6 or so snowshoers on it since the big snow and it was packed down between 2 and 3 feet below the top of the snow.  It was real easy going until the junction of the Jackson Branch and the Webster Branch.  The former (heading to the Jackson Summit) was also completely packed out.  The latter (heading to Mt. Webster) hadn't had a foot on it since the snow started falling.  It was completely intimidating.  We took it.
  • The Webster Branch was a brute.  We took turns breaking trail and soon lost the trail completely.  We spent 4 hours working our way through alpine forest of fir that grew ever closer together, fully laden with snow, on 3-6ft of powder.  That 4 hours covered the entire trek up the Webster Branch Trail/Bushwack.  We wrestled our way through spruce traps, over submerged windthrows and into drifts that could swallow a car.  I kept referring to my 'North-South Finder' to keep us on a steady bearing of magnetic south which we knew would get us to the ridge.  We set 1:00 pm as the point at which failure to hit the ridge would require a turnaround and descend.
  • We had a number of challenges in addition to the obvious.  For one, the huge snow bombs falling off the trees were potentially hazardous and required attention and hoods.  Also, the cold weather light clothing conspired with the slow, arduous pace to make moisture management nearly unmanageable.  Additionally, stops were accompanied by a nearly immediate losing of the fingers.  And lastly, the swimming through the snow, the tedious pace, and the ever narrowing spaces between trees were highly psychologically wearing.  (On comment made during the roughest parts was "this would NOT be a good place for somebody with claustrophobia").
  • At 1-something-pm we re-found the Webster Branch Trail (that we has started on.)  By 1:50 we were on the ridge at the Junction with the Webster Cliff Trail.  This trail, which we intended to take to Jackson, was also not packed out and was looking quite challenging.  We decided to head back down, taking the newly found Webster Branch trail back.  The trail breaking, even though it's a steep downhill, was arduous and we had to take turns.
  • At 2:45 we got to the trail junction again for the Webster & Jackson Branch trails having descended about 1,000ft.  We snacked, drank a little water, and decided to make it a big day out.  We made a right and headed up the Jackson Branch Trail to climb the 1300' (-ish) up to the summit.  Tagged it at 3:45, turned right around and were back at the car by 5pm.
Some final notes:
  • Poles were almost useless.  If I put my weight on the pole it would shove down until my arm was in the snow.
  • Taking turns breaking trail is really key.  As in cycling, regular turns prior to damaging fatigue is the best idea.
  • A hood is necessary.
  • These bushwacks are not for the faint-of-heart, but are great practice for being held captive, tortured or being forced to stack stones for a month while handcuffed and wearing cement overshoes.
tMail's Trip Report:  Where there is failure there is success.

  • Webster Cliff Trail first step down to my waist!
  • Webster Cliff Trail 2nd step down to my chest! This will be fun!
  • There is a cascade falls lull in the trail, getting up the other side was what Mutha compared to Hellbrook, I went no where for 5 minutes
  • We were on the trail perfectly, then I don’t know what happened, we missed the turn, it was a 95% degree left that we missed.  I actually bushwhacked parallel to the trail by about 10 feet and said this can’t be it!
  • Lessons learned gore-tex hood jacket essential for bushwhack and gore-tex gloves or over mitten essential
  • It was a tangled web head deep snow, spruce traps, branches, moving trees, breaking branches, clearing snow, wind, cold, branches poking below/above/beneath you, I didn’t know if I was going over wind downs or snow bridges that always gave out.
  • If we saw an opening we went for it.
  • I complete lost my hands everything else was fine at which point I said lets head back down, then the demon of Webster hit, Mutha said let me go to this clearing and it was the f’n trail.  I put on over mittens, ate food and hands came back slowly, if breaking trail I had warmth if not I froze to death.
  • I stayed in the same clothes all day trusted the wool it dried and I stayed warm.
  • The remaining trip up to Webster painfully slow, more trail breaking, DEEP snow.
  • We looked at the sign and turned around and within 45 minutes back to the Jackson / Webster cliff Jct
  • Food / liquid up Jackson very little consideration, we knew we had to go up.
  • I said to myself its only 1.2 miles forget the round trip math let gravity pull me down.
  • Jackson ascent was uneventful we kept marching forward, I generated little heat, I was at exhaustion at this point, was in full shell jacket, gloves and over mittens.
  • Highland Center is becoming like a 2nd home place is crawling with Crawford Notch Tail!
  • 5 hour energy did nothing for drive home
  • Signs of the Apocalypse at the Irving station my bill was $6.66 cents getting gas in Hooksett it was $46.66
  • I randomly took 89N home thinking it was the Hooksett exit I was half asleep pulling a MD, I realized it immediately.
  •  I got up at 4.45am to drive 3 hours, to bushwhack for 4 hours, to get no where, descend all the way down, ascend all the way back up to get Jackson in December not because I want to be an Ironman but because I am a GRIDDER!!!!!

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